Martin Scorsese and Christopher Lee are very good friends, but up until 2010 had never worked together. Lee's response when he was asked by Scorsese to appear in Hugo was: "It's about time!"
The guitarist, who appears early in the film and at the Georges Méliès party near the end, is modeled after famed Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt. The filmmakers even went so far as to have the actor's left hand match Django's: he doesn't use his fourth and fifth fingers (which were burned in a fire).
The opening track shot of the city, ending at the train station, was the very first shot designed. Each frame required 1000 computers to render, and completion took 1 year.
In flashbacks we see Georges Méliès staging his productions with lavishly colored sets and costumes. The real Méliès only used sets, costumes and make-up in grayscale, since colored elements might turn out the wrong shade of gray on black and white film. Many of the prints were then hand tinted in post-production.
After a screening that James Cameron attended, he called the film a "masterpiece" and told Martin Scorsese it was the best use of 3D he had seen, including his own films.
When Ben Kingsley (as Georges Méliès) is seen directing one of his films, the camera operator on screen left is played by his real son Edmund Kingsley.
The cam mechanism in the automaton is heavily inspired by the machinery in the Jaquet-Droz automata, built between 1768 and 1774. Indeed these automata are still in working condition (they can be seen at the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire of Neuchâtel, in Switzerland) and are capable of drawing figures as complicated as the drawing depicted in the film. Many nuances such as the head following the pen as it was drawing and dipping the pen in ink were also present in the automata in real life.
The music during the scene in which Hugo and Isabelle read in the book The Invention of Dreams about the history of film making is Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns. He is considered to be the first composer ever to write an official movie soundtrack for The Assassination of the Duke de Guise (1908), making this musical reference quite apt.
With Sir Christopher Lee having been born in 1922, makes him the only supporting actor to have lived in the age this film is set: 1931.
Martin Scorsese's first feature film in twelve years not starring Leonardo DiCaprio. His last feature film without DiCaprio was Bringing Out the Dead (1999).
Martin Scorsese's first PG rated film in 18 years. His first was The Age of Innocence (1993).
Robert Richardson's win on the Oscar's cinematographic category for this film meaning that he, Emmanuel Lubezki and Vittorio Storaro are the only present living cinematographers to win the award 3 times.
Martin Scorsese directed the 3D cinematography by wearing clip-on 3D lenses over his prescription glasses. This is his first foray into 3D.
The driving force behind the film was Martin Scorsese's young daughter Francesca Scorsese who presented him a copy of the Brian Selznick book as a birthday gift hoping that he would make a film out of it someday. It was also her suggestion to have the film presented in 3D format. Rather than having the 3D accomplished by post-conversion, Scorsese decided to have it shot in native format, so together with VFX supervisor Robert Legato and cinematographer Robert Richardson, they spent (before filming) about two weeks at the Cameron/Pace group doing a crash course on filming in that format.
During the early scene which introduces the interior of the train station, there are appearances by characters representing Django Reinhardt, James Joyce, and Winston Churchill.
While most of the film was shot in studio in London, two weeks of location shooting were actually done in Paris.
The poem Isabelle recites in the train station to Inspector Gustav is "A Birthday" by Christina Georgina Rossetti.
A lecture hall from the famous Parisian university La Sorbonne was dressed and used for the cinema hall towards the end of the film.
There are several references to James Joyce in the movie. In the beginning he is standing in the café. Also, the frozen people outside of the apartment building are a direct reference to Joyce's short story "The Dead", which has the central character imagining frozen people in the snow all over Ireland.
This movie was made and released about four years after its source novel 'The Invention of Hugo Cabret' by Brian Selznick was first published in 2007.
This Martin Scorsese movie won the same number of Academy Awards as Scorsese's The Aviator (2004) totalling five. Both were nominated for Best Picture and Best Director Oscars but lost out. The film also won the same number of Oscars in the same year as The Artist (2011). Both films examined silent cinema.
When Martin Scorsese decided to adapt The Invention of Hugo Cabret, his first and only choice to portray Georges Méliès was Sir Ben Kingsley.
While shooting in Paris, the crew's base of operations was prestigious high school Lycée Louis-le-Grand, whose cafeteria had to provide 700 meals daily to accommodate the cast & crew.
This film was one of a number of movies that were in competition at the 2012 Academy Awards that were related to France and French culture in some way. The films included The Artist (2011), Hugo (2011), War Horse (2011), Midnight in Paris (2011), The Adventures of Tintin (2011), Puss in Boots (2011) from the French fairy-tale by Charles Perrault, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) based on the novel by Pierre Boulle and A Cat in Paris (2010). Interestingly though, there was no French film nominated for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award (Oscar) in 2012.
If you don't include the credits, the film is exactly two hours long, down to the second.
Martin Scorsese's first feature film to be shot in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio since Goodfellas (1990).
A Nintendo DS game "Hugo Cabret" was planned but never made. It would have been the first ever video-game tie-in for a Martin Scorsese film.
When Hugo shows Isabel the clock passageways, she says "I feel just like Jean Valjean!" Jean Valjean is the protagonist in the Victor Hugo novel "Les Míserables". Sacha Baron Cohen who played the policeman in this film, played the con man Thernardier who bothers Jean Valjean in Les Misérables (2012).
When Brian Selznick heard that Martin Scorsese wanted to adapt his book The Invention of Hugo Cabret into a movie, Brian Selznick said, of course it has to be directed by Martin Scorsese.
The original cut of Georges Méliès' footage was ten minutes long. Martin Scorsese decided to cut it to a shorter length because he felt he would not be able to get away with the footage being so long.
When Hugo is seen for the last time, he has just done a card trick and is showing off the three of clubs - which is always "your card" in card tricks by Penn Jillette & Teller.
Martin Scorsese said that when he read the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, he felt an immediate connection to the story.
Sacha Baron Cohen said the reason he agreed to appear in Hugo was because he wanted to work with Martin Scorsese.
This film was one of a group of films that were in competition at the 2012 Academy Awards that referenced film history. This film and The Artist (2011), which both won five Academy Awards, examined silent cinema; The Help (2011) referenced Gone with the Wind (1939), its Best Supporting Actress winner Octavia Spencer evoking Hattie McDaniel from that classic; whilst My Week with Marilyn (2011) with two nominations was about the making of The Prince and the Showgirl (1957).
Martin Scorsese screened 3-D prints of House of Wax (1953) and Dial M for Murder (1954) for the cast and crew as part of the preparation for filming Hugo in 3-D.
Hugo marked the second time that Emily Mortimer and Sir Ben Kingsley worked with Martin Scorsese after having both appeared in Shutter Island (2010).
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
The original costumes of Hugo and Isabelle are being held at Seven Stories in Byker, England.
Martin Scorsese sent screenwriter John Logan the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. When John Logan began reading the book he completely understood why Martin Scorsese was interested in adapting it.
Very much of Sasha Baron Cohen acting is based on Peter Sellers Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther movies.
Frances de la Tour and Richard Griffiths also appeared in a few of the Harry Potter films but unlike this film, they never had any scenes together.
Brian Selznick: The author of the book can be seen at the very end of the movie at Méliès' apartment. He is the one wearing glasses following behind Méliès and the film professor.